What Mar­ben’s up to

Pas­sion Pri­or­i­tized

Transworld Snowboarding - - CON­TENTS - WORDS JENS HEIG

You haven’t seen the name Zac Mar­ben pop up in a re­cent full-length video. When Vans’ ac­claimed LAND­LINE. was re­vealed in Jan­uary, the Min­nesotan known for his suave yet in­tense ap­proach to the street and back­coun­try was no­tice­ably ab­sent. It wasn’t by choice. Be­tween an un­co­op­er­a­tive shoul­der and a large, tal­ented cast, the long­time team rider’s footage wound up on the cut­ting room floor. “Shit hap­pens,” he said, with a tinge of re­gret in his voice.

The roots of Mar­ben’s pas­sions, how­ever, have only be­come more deeply rooted in his life. He started a fam­ily with his wife, Jenny. A paint­brush still finds its way into his hand, de­spite con­vert­ing his art stu­dio into a bed­room for his son, Radley. He un­leashes his cre­ativ­ity on a fret­board as of­ten as a snow­board and records more songs than tricks. For Zac, if it’s not en­joy­able, it won’t oc­cupy much of his time be­cause there isn’t enough of it to do all he wants to do.

How­ever, Zac’s tenure as a pro isn’t over. Watch any of the In­sta­gram videos he’s posted from last sea­son, and you’ll re­al­ize that re­fine­ment comes with age. Un­til you see his name be­fore a video part, you’ll see his name on Spo­tify or iTunes, in the cor­ner of a paint­ing, or maybe even il­lu­mi­nated above First Av­enue’s 7th Street En­try on a Fri­day night. When shit hap­pens, Zac makes the most of it.

When did you start play­ing and record­ing mu­sic?

I started play­ing gui­tar and drums when I was around nine years old, around the same time I started snow­board­ing. I learned a cou­ple things from my dad but mostly taught my­self. It wasn’t un­til I was 16 or 17, when I was go­ing on trips with Volcom, that I started play­ing ev­ery day and trav­el­ing with a gui­tar. I met Scott Sullivan, the pho­tog­ra­pher; he’s an amaz­ing mu­si­cian. He told me to play my gui­tar ev­ery day, no mat­ter what. I re­ally took that to heart. Since then, I’ve been writ­ing songs and play­ing as much as I can, learn­ing all the other stuff too: drums, bass, song struc­ture. In the past 10 years, I’ve prob­a­bly recorded 500 songs.


Since I’ve started, I’ve just wanted to play more and more, keep doing it. I play with my bud­dies Jonas Michilot and Bran­don Lar­son some­times; we have a loose band go­ing. Then I just do a lot of record­ing in my base­ment.

And you re­cently re­leased an al­bum.

Yeah, I just re­leased Dunes. I’ve been work­ing on that for pretty much three years. Took a lit­tle while, but I’m psyched on it. It’s the lighter side of my mu­sic. I have a plan to do an­other al­bum in the near fu­ture with some of the heav­ier stuff I do.

Who in­spires you, mu­si­cally?

I get in­flu­enced by the bands I’m lis­ten­ing to at the time. I lis­ten to a lot of metal, Black Sab­bath. I like to play into some dreamy as­pects, like Pink Floyd style. I take lit­tle hints and parts that are sim­i­lar to other bands, but I don’t try to use some­body’s style too much. I want to have my own.

Would you say your snow­board­ing is in­flu­enced by your mu­sic or that your mu­sic is in­flu­enced by your snow­board­ing?

I think they’re to­tally dif­fer­ent. Maybe some of my cre­ativ­ity feeds into both of them, but I don’t know if I re­ally treat them the same.

Do you want to keep on the hus­tle and do big things in snow­board­ing, or are you in a place where other as­pects of life are be­com­ing more im­por­tant to you?

Snow­board­ing is still the same to me; I’m go­ing to do it no mat­ter what. I’d like to go on some big­ger trips, but not hav­ing as many spon­sors, that stuff doesn’t hap­pen as of­ten. I’m not go­ing to be fly­ing over­seas just for fun be­cause I can’t af­ford that. I’ll still be snow­board­ing, but it will be ten min­utes, more or less, from my house at Hy­land [Hills] with the boys. We have a good scene, a good crew there. Just hav­ing that con­ve­nience makes it fun.

The risk that’s in­volved with pro­fes­sional snow­board­ing is con­sid­er­able. Now that you have a fam­ily, does that change your out­look at all?

A lit­tle bit, for sure. Over the years I’ve had quite a few in­juries. Now, with Jen and the lit­tle guy to look af­ter, I take it a more se­ri­ous with back­coun­try safety and the risk-to-re­ward ra­tio. I’m not go­ing to risk my life be­cause of the po­ten­tial to get in a mag­a­zine or have a ten-se­cond clip in a video. I’m not go­ing for the shock fac­tor as much as bring­ing it back to the roots again. It’s not all about the risks. I would rather be doing it for the rea­son I started— be­cause it’s fun. If it’s not fun, then why do it?

Though it was un­re­lated to snow­board­ing, see­ing what hap­pened to Dil­lon… Where has your mind wan­dered since?

It’s ter­ri­ble. He was the coolest kid and had such a bright fu­ture. Just a great per­son­al­ity, su­per tal­ented on and off a snow­board. Dil­lon has done some of the cra­zi­est rails out of any­body. He could do that. I don’t know ex­actly how to say it, but you just never know what can hap­pen. It def­i­nitely makes you re­al­ize you have to ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery day, your friends and fam­ily. It’s made me look back and think about things I’ve done, then look for­ward and re­al­ize the im­por­tance of think­ing stuff through be­cause ac­ci­dents hap­pen. Like I said, the con­cept of risk-to-re­ward has been on my mind lately. Is this re­ally worth what you’re get­ting out of it?

Have you learned things in your ca­reer that in­flu­ence the way you raise your son?

When I started snow­board­ing pro­fes­sion­ally, I was on my own with a bunch of older peo­ple at a young age. In­stead of be­ing in high school and go­ing to col­lege, I had to learn how to be an adult quick, while still liv­ing as a kid. I’d like to show Radley how to do stuff but also let him learn his own way. I’m al­ways try­ing to ex­pose him to things that I think are cool—like skate­board­ing and play­ing mu­sic, and he loves that al­ready. He’s only three, and he’s learn­ing quick. He was play­ing har­mon­ica to­day.

That’s awe­some.

He just picked it up on his own. From snow­board­ing, I’ve learned you can be cre­ative and carve your own path. I want him to re­al­ize that you can do what­ever you want, as long as you’re hav­ing fun. In­stead of be­ing in high school and go­ing to col­lege, I had to learn how to be an adult quick, while still liv­ing as a kid. I imag­ine I’ll treat Radley like that—how him how to do stuff, but also let him learn his own way. I’m al­ways try­ing to show him things that I think are cool, like skate­board­ing and play­ing mu­sic. And he loves that al­ready. He’s only three years old, but he’s learn­ing pretty quick. He was play­ing har­mon­ica to­day.

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